WELLSBURG - A Brooke High School senior was honored at an international conference Saturday for a community service project involving students with special needs.
Angie Smith was presented the Future Educators of America's Leadership Award at the organization's international conference Saturday in Orlando, Fla.
"The award is given to an FEA member who has made a notable, voluntary contribution to education and in so doing, demonstrated outstanding initiative," said Diane Lucero, her career in education instructor and advisor to the Brooke County FEA chapter.
SPECIAL HONOR — Brooke High School senior Angie Smith was selected from students throughout the U.S. and Canada to receive the Future Educators of America’s Leadership Award at the organization’s international conference in Florida Saturday. With Smith is her teacher, Diane Lucero, who’s had three students place at the event. -- Warren Scott
Lucero added the award "is the highest honor an FEA member can earn."
Smith, who lives with her grandparents Richard and Donna Smith, also was presented a $1,000 scholarship by the San Antonio, Texas chapter of the Phi Delta Kappa international educators fraternity.
Lucero explained it's an annual tradition for the chapter to award a scholarship to a Leadership Award winner.
Smith became one of more than 900 students from throughout the U.S. and Canada competing in this year's conference after placing first at the state level for establishing the Friends Helping Friends club at the school.
Through the group, Smith and nine friends have taught several students with special needs to cook spaghetti and other dishes and in learning other life skills, such as washing dishes, with the cooperation of their teachers, Shari Buffington and Kelly Hannaoui.
Lucero added the group also has helped the students to hone their social skills through such activities as joining the school's football team for practice one day and attending the Sadie Hawkens Dance together.
Smith said before the dance, the group had dinner at Pizza Hut using money donated by Carla Jacobs, mother of student Matty Filippelli; and cooks at the high school.
She said following the dance, "One of them told me, this is the best school ever."
Smith said the students' cheerful nature inspired her to work with them. She recalled having a bad day once when she was greeted by student Brad Maderia in the hall.
"His smile picked me up," she said, adding, "They're all so happy and fun to be around."
Lucero said Smith was required to submit a 20-page portfolio documenting her efforts as well as photos for illustration. But it only included the group's fall activities, as it has continued to meet since.
"She continued even after surpassing the required 40 hours. She just kept it going," Lucero said.
Lucero said she hopes Smith's younger classmates will keep the club active following her graduation.
Smith is planning to study special education and early education at Glenville State College, so it would surprise many to hear she didn't like school until her freshman year. She credited two teachers, Morgan Kent and Jami Packer, for helping her change her mind.
The two were among many who helped her to raise money for the trip to Orlando.
Lucero said she and Brianna Kowalsky, who represented the school and West Virginia at the conference as the state's FEA vice president, solicited contributions from various sources for airfare, lodging, the registration fee and other expenses for the conference.
Kowalsky placed first at the state FEA conference in a competition that involved students submitting resumes and participating in mock interviews. But she didn't earn enough points for the written portion of the competition to make the cut for the many students competing at the national event.
Lucero added the fundraising efforts also received a tremendous boost through a dance held at Wellsburg Middle School that raised $700 and a spaghetti dinner held by students led by English and drama instructor Nathan Marshall that raised $350.
Smith said while in Orlando she enjoyed a short visit to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, where she viewed plays based on "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Little Mermaid."
To complete requirements for the career education program, which is for students interested in becoming teachers or working at daycare centers, she is observing and teaching in Judy Fowler's class at Beech Bottom Primary School.
Lucero said of Smith, "I'm extremely proud of her. She's always the first to volunteer. She's always the first to volunteer. She has such a work ethic."
Smith is the third student from Lucero's career education classes who have placed at the international conference. In 2010 Ruth Plunkitt placed second in the competition's impromptu speaking category; and Ryan Cipoletti placed third in the lesson plan category in 2011 and first for the same category in 2012.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)